Self-boosting vaccines and their implications for herd immunity

Nimalan Arinaminpathy, Jennie S. Lavine, Bryan T. Grenfell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Advances in vaccine technology over the past two centuries have facilitated far-reaching impact in the control of many infections, and today's emerging vaccines could likewise open new opportunities in the control of several diseases. Here we consider the potential, population-level effects of a particular class of emerging vaccines that use specific viral vectors to establish long-term, intermittent antigen presentation within a vaccinated host: in essence, "self-boosting" vaccines. In particular, we use mathematical models to explore the potential role of such vaccines in situations where current immunization raises only relatively short-lived protection. Vaccination programs in such cases are generally limited in their ability to raise lasting herd immunity. Moreover, in certain cases mass vaccination can have the counterproductive effect of allowing an increase in severe disease, through reducing opportunities for immunity to be boosted through natural exposure to infection. Such dynamics have been proposed, for example, in relation to pertussis and varicella-zoster virus. In this context we show how self-boosting vaccines could open qualitatively new opportunities, for example by broadening the effective duration of herd immunity that can be achieved with currently used immunogens. At intermediate rates of self-boosting, these vaccines also alleviate the potential counterproductive effects of mass vaccination, through compensating for losses in natural boosting. Importantly, however, we also show how sufficiently high boosting rates may introduce a new regime of unintended consequences, wherein the unvaccinated bear an increased disease burden. Finally, we discuss important caveats and data needs arising from this work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20154-20159
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 4 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Herpesvirus
  • Waning immunity


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